Budget and Appropriations: The Request
In 1997, Congress only appropriated $283 million to LSC, a steep cut in funding from the $400 million it appropriated only two years prior. In the last 25 years, with the support of the ABA, LSC’s funding has increased, with the organization receiving $489 million in FY 2022 Appropriations. While we thank Congress for their support, our work is not done. The final FY 2022 appropriation for LSC was well below the White House request, as well as what the House and Senate Appropriations Committees initially proposed for LSC. We continue to encourage Congress to support increased and robust funding for the Legal Services Corporation in FY 2023 so that it can serve the civil legal needs of all low-income Americans.
Budget and Appropriations: The Process
In practice, Congress has moved to biennial budgeting in recent years, which the House of Representatives, Senate and the President should establish the total spending [the 302(a) number] for the Fiscal Year. Under current law [31 U.S.C. §1105(a)], the President is required to submit the budget proposal to Congress on or after the first Monday in January, but no later than the first Monday in February. Once delivered, the House and Senate Budget Committees work will commence: Every year, the Budget Committees are directed to produce a budget by April 15th.
The appropriations measure passed each year fund the federal government. After April 15th, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are authorized to commence the appropriations process, even if the President has not submitted a budget for their consideration. The first step is for the House and Senate Appropriations Chair to assign each of the twelve appropriations subcommittees a 302(b) suballocation—the amount a subcommittee is to spend in its appropriations bill: Revenue-raising measures must originate in the House of Representatives.
Appropriations bills are supposed to be completed before the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1st, but the deadlines are regularly breached, necessitating continuing resolutions (CRs) that fund the government through a new deadline. Congress often needs 3 to 5 CRs per year before the final omnibus appropriations bill can be enacted.
Supplemental appropriations are used to address needs that arise after the twelve appropriations bills have been finalized. The supplemental appropriations bill typically funds relief from natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, et cetera.
The ABA supports a strong, federally funded, community controlled program to provide legal aid for the poor. The ABA favors substantial private bar involvement in the delivery of legal services and actively encourages pro bono participation by individual attorneys, law firms, and corporate general counsels.